The Art of Strengths Coaching

G is for Goal Setting

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There are many ways to set goals. The approach outlined here borrows heavily from how people in sports aim to perform at their best. Let’s explore this approach.

Defining The Big Goal

People often start by setting a big goal. They focus on the real results to achieve and clarify the picture of success. Providing this is done properly – and it is based on what they can control – it can provide a compelling aim that people feel motivated to achieve.

People who work in sports, however, say that this approach can lead to athletes setting unrealistic targets. A sprinter may say they want to win an Olympic Gold Medal, for example, but this aim depends on factors that are beyond their control.

Many things could get in the way. They could suffer injuries, race against better athletes, experience unexpected setbacks or whatever. This could lead to disillusionment.

The sprinter can focus instead on what they can control. They can say, for example:

“I will aim to perform at my personal best and achieve a time of …”

Delivering this aim may or may not achieve the desired outcome of winning a Gold Medal. But it gives the person practical targets they can work towards to perform at their best.

Steve Peters, who wrote The Chimp Paradox, has helped many sports people to take these steps. He believes it is vital for people to differentiate between a dream and a goal. Steve gives the following explanation.

“A dream is something that you want to happen but it is not fully under your control.

“The dream has outside influences and therefore cannot guarantee that it will happen; it is just a wish.

“Goals are something that you can set and achieve because you have full control of them.

“Goals increase the chances of dreams happening.”

Bearing these things in mind, however, many individuals still prefer to talk about setting big goals. When going through this process, they often do three things.

They clarify the desired outcomes, they clarify the things they can control and they clarify how they can do their best to achieve the outcomes. They may write something along the following lines.

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Defining The Small Goals

The person then returns to basics. They focus on the smaller goals they must deliver – and the behaviours they must demonstrate – on the road to achieving the big goal.

The person also describes the specific things they must do to achieve each small goal. They translate these into the practical actions they must take to make these happen.

Great sports teams also describe the specific things they must do to perform well. They describe the practical things they must do:

To eat, rest and train properly.
To practice the specific strategy – the plan – for playing the game.
To encourage colleagues every day during the season.
To follow the team’s preferred rituals on the match day.
To be positive and fully present during the game.
To pursue the chosen strategies – and implement the required skills – during the game.
To keep doing the basics during the game.
To then, when appropriate, add the brilliance.

People then translate such actions into smaller goals that they can set and accomplish on the way to achieving the big goals. They say things like:

“The first small goal to achieve is to … The specific things to do to achieve this goal are to …”

Different people use different methods for setting their smaller goals. The key is to translate these into specific actions. People can implement these actions and move step by step towards the big goal. Here is one way of writing these aims.

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Doing What Is Required

Peak performers do what they say they will do. They do the right things in the right way every day to improve the chances of getting the right results.

They develop a rhythm of following good habits. When blown off-course, they re-centre by saying something like:

“Let’s go back to basics.

“The first small goal to achieve to get back on course is: … The specific things to do to achieve this goal are: …

“The strategies that have been rehearsed for tackling this kind of situation are: … The specific things to do to implement these strategies are: …”

Different people use different methods to follow such disciplines. Some create their own mantra. They may produce something like the following to keep translating their aims into actions. They also remind themselves of the benefits.

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There are many ways to set goals. As mentioned earlier, one approach is that applied by people in sports.

Below is an excerpt from an interview that Steve Peters gave to Ian Herbert of The Independent shortly after taking a role at Liverpool Football Club.

“If you start going into the realm of the uncontrollable with a pre-defined goal then you are going to start to stress.

“So I would be guiding Liverpool to say, ‘By all means let’s commit to the dream and make it happen. But let’s not make it a goal and put pressure on ourselves to live up to something that is actually not in our control.’

“That, to me, is very critical in life. The goals become: ‘Let’s do the best we can, be prepared as individuals, be prepared as a team, make sure we get everything right.’

“These are the goals because you can control these. At the end of the day you can’t do better than your best.”

You can read the article via the following link.

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